Adjusting to your newborn

By Dr. Amanda Lee

Having a newborn in the house — whether it be your first or your fifth — is an all-consuming and chaotic experience. All routines immediately disappear and somehow the new addition suddenly becomes “in charge.”

Remember that mothering and fathering are learning experiences: no one is a born parent. Yet, you should have confidence in yourself and your natural instincts – and to a significant degree you should try to avoid the conflicting advice of well-meaning friends and relatives. Your baby needs to be kept well-loved, well-fed and comfortable. As long as you are attending to these needs, chances are you’re doing fine.

The internet is a new and huge resource for families. The amount of information available can be overwhelming and conflicting. A good general web site is the American Academy of Pediatrics at This covers general care of infants and children, with links of reliable reference sites for further information.

Routine well-baby care

Routine check-ups are a primary way in which childhood illness can be predicted, prevented and treated. During the first years of your baby’s life, we feel it is most important that he or she be seen at regular intervals. In addition to our being able to talk to you about his or her care and nutrition and the many interesting things you can expect, check-ups monitor growth and development.

At each visit a comprehensive physical examination will be done. Laboratory work, including a hematocrit and urine analysis, will be obtained as indicated. Routine immunization against diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, German measles, hepatitis B, varicella (chicken pox), Hib (Haemophilus Influenza type b) and pneumococcus will be given according to the recommended schedule. In addition, of course, we will try to help you with questions and try to anticipate potential problems that may arise.

Some helpful hints

Your baby will do some things all babies do, just because they are babies. All babies sneeze, yawn, belch, have hiccups, pass gas, cough and cry. They may occasionally look cross-eyed. Sneezing is the only way in which a baby can clear his nose of mucus, lint or milk curds. Hiccups are little spasms of the diaphragm muscle. They may often be stopped by giving a few swallows of warm water. Coughing is baby’s way of clearing his throat. Crying is his way of saying, “I’m hungry, I’m wet, I’m thirsty, I want to turn over, I’m too hot, I’m too cold, I have a stomach ache or I want to play and talk to someone.” You will gradually learn to know what your baby means.

Almost all infants have a fussy period which frequently occurs in the late afternoon or evening, but hopefully not at night. This is not colic, but a normal phenomenon for which there is no explanation. It usually disappears by age three months.

Try not to expose your new baby to more than just a few people. Excessive stimulation can lead to a nervous, fretful baby. Also, people (especially children) carry germs which can be harmful to young infants.

Remember that it will take some time (several weeks in many cases) before your baby settles into any sort of routine. Do not expect the baby to follow a regular schedule for a while, but be reassured that a predictable sleep-wake pattern for the baby and you will evolve slowly.


Feeding is one of the baby’s first pleasant experiences. Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding, it is a time to relax, but be comfortable and enjoy the intimate relationship your baby needs.

Breastfeeding probably provides the best method of nutrition for most babies. In addition to the convenience and lower cost, breast milk is a superior source of protein and helps provide the baby with some natural immunity to many diseases. We’ll be happy to discuss the many advantages of breastfeeding with you.

Bottle feeding with formula is an acceptable alternative for those mothers who choose not to breastfeed. Most infants will do well with cow’s milk formula.

Our practice supports the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that all infants be maintained on breast milk or infant formula for the first year of life.
Always ask your baby’s doctor or nurse before changing formula.

General care and hygiene

Your new baby will need bathing and routine care just as do all other members of the family. For the first few days, do not immerse your infant in water until the dried-up cord falls off and heals completely. Use a washcloth with warm water to cleanse the baby. Keep the cord area clean and dry.

Once the cord has fallen off and the umbilicus has completely healed, you may bathe the baby as you wish. Most parents prefer to use an infant bath. Use a mild, non-perfumed soap (Dove or Palmolive, for example) and wash all over. Pay particular attention to the creases and folds. Cleanse the penis or labia with cotton balls soaked in warm water.

The diaper area should be kept clean and dry. Cleanse it carefully with each diaper change. Baby lotion may help protect the area. Topical protective ointment may help prevent diaper rash. Talc, cornstarch and baby powder are generally not recommended.

The finger and toe nails should be trimmed with a clipper as often as necessary to avoid the baby’s scratching his face.

  • Fever with rectal temperature 100.4 or greater
  • Repeated vomiting (not just spitting up)
  • Excessive crying without obvious cause
  • Listlessness
  • Frequent loose watery bowel movements
  • Any unusual rash (not prickly heat rash)